100 Club, London
Saturday June 28 2014
Last time I came to the 100 Club to see Vice
it was the 1980s, the second wave of punk was in its first flush of life,
and the place was rammed with lairy young punks eager to get their pogo
Punk has been through umpteen more waves since then, and those young punks are now older, stouter, and a little less likely to get lairy.
But a fair number of them have turned up tonight - plus an encouraging contingent of younger faces - to see this big-value bill, all proceedings to the Breast Cancer Care charity. The fact that it's a charity gig means there's an easy-going atmosphere in the venue. Everyone's feeling the positive vibes, and everyone's up for some good time punk rock action.
And that's what we get, in the form of The Phobics - a bunch of no-nonsense blokes knocking out a set of rough-edged punker numbers that nod in the direction of a certain Buzzcocksian wistfulness, even as the guitarist throws shapes and rocks it up.
Perhaps it's the singer's white jacket, which lends him the air of a jazz crooner, but the Phobics look like the lounge entertainment at the Hotel de Punk - located on Blackpool seafront, naturally. That faintly surreal impression shunts the band's set beyond the meat 'n' potatoes zone it might otherwise occupy.
The Lachicos turn
out to be a covers band - a collection of gents of a certain age whacking
out the classics with much enthusiasm and not, it must be said, a huge
amount of finesse.
The golden hits of punk are unceremoniously walloped into lumpy musical porridge, and, frankly, if it wasn't all for charridee I suspect the band might get a hard time from the audience. But everyone's ready to go with it, even when the slinky, camp psychedelia of The Only Ones' 'Another Girl, Another Planet', is transformed into a pub-rock shoutalong.
"Space travel's in my blood," barks the singer, unconvincingly. Oh yeah? Bus travel, more like, mate.
I think it's fair to say that The
Featherz are the first band tonight
to represent the here and now. If the previous bands essentially amounted
to punk rock dads reliving their misspent youths, The Featherz are the
punk rock daughters mis-spending their youths before our very eyes.
It's a new line-up tonight: two guitars give the sound a big, glam, T-Rexy blast, while vocalist Danie Cox bristles with righteous stroppiness and delivers the songs in a shut-up-and-listen yell. The resulting racket has plenty of punkiness, but there's a hint of poppiness in there, too: The Featherz write songs, rather than riff 'n' shout workouts.
It's a convincing performace - dare I say it, The Featherz
have become a band. To me, the previous incarnation always seemed
a little like a bunch of fans paying tribute to their influences. But now,
we see The Featherz
making their influences work for them. It's a definite step forward, a
fine noise, and you can't beat the attitude.
There's a brief appearance by TV Smith now - him out of The Adverts, now plying his trade as an affable troubadour with an acoustic guitar. That doesn't mean we're in for some twingly-twangly campfire singalongs, though, for TV Smith thrashes at his guitar like a man possessed, hammering through a smattering of new songs and some classics from The Adverts' catalogue.
He's got masses of energy, hurtling into the songs as if running for a fast-departing train, and if there's something a little incongruous about his rendition of 'Bored Teenagers' (I suspect TV Smith hasn't been bored, or a teenager, for about 40 years) the sheer verve with which he slams into the song is a pretty unarguable riposte.
Dragster are entirely at home here, in this basement full of punks. But then Dragster would be at home in a room full of rockabilies, or even, maybe, in a mass of metalheads.
Dragster are rock 'n' roll in all its frayed, flailing, fucked-up glory, neatly wrapped in a one-band package. They burst onto the stage in a squall of everything-on-eleven noise, and proceed to rip the dear old 100 Club to shreds at a constant velocity of approximately 100 mph. The singer hurls herself around the stage in a blur of tattoos and flying hair, while to her right the glam-rock guitarist digs in like Johnny Thunders and Mick Mars are fighting for control of his psyche.
It's a heady rush of rock 'n' roll go-juice, and it says much for Dragster's sense of their own identity that they can haul it all together and still be unequivocally themselves. A neat trick if you can pull it off, kids, and Dragster certainly can.
Right, then. Vice Squad at the 100 Club, twenty-first century style - well, it's not going to be a re-run of that 80s gig I attended as a wide-eyed (and somewhat legless) young punk, now, is it? The 100 Club looks almost exactly the same now as it did then, give or take a few new photos of old jazzers on the walls. But many other things have changed over the years - starting with Vice Squad themselves.
Only Beki Bondage remains from that early line-up, and she's no longer the ever-pogoing teenage punkette, shouting out her lyrics in a breathless yelp. She's now reinvented herself as (or perhaps she's just grown into) something of a British version of Joan Jett.
She's a cool, credible rock chick, toting a guitar, leading her band with a combination of charm and don't-mess attitude, and with a heavy-duty blues rasp of a voice. Beki is backed by a band of showboating rock geezers, who are never slow to throw a shape or two and grab some of the limelight for themselves - but it's very much Beki's gig.
centre of the band's barrelling blam and blatter, she's the visual focus,
the leader of the gang, and she rocks out on the big, beefy modern Vice
Squad numbers - like the thundering, riff-heavy 'Defiant' - with equal
parts nonchalance and gusto.
There's a smattering of early songs in the set - like the ramalama 'Stand Strong, Stand Proud' (a feature of Vice Squad songs old and new is a robust do-your-own-thing, take-no-shit sentiment), and the band do a fine job of reconciling the frantic, punky-thrashy older numbers with the more measured, structured feel of the songs they've written more recently.
But it's all good rabble-rousing stuff, and the 100 Club crowd is very willing to be roused. There's a good bit of moshpit action going on, and by the time Vice Squad arrive at 'Last Rockers' - their 1980-vintage nuclear holocaust anthem (in 1980 every band had to have a nuclear holocaust anthem) there's a stew of bodies down the front just like ye olden days.
It occurs to me that Vice Squad are enough of a rock band these days to branch out beyond purely punk gigs like this - you'd think they could tuck themselves in somewhere between Rob Zombie and Flogging Molly at the Download festival, or something.
But tonight was all about the punk, and the punks are all right.
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